As a mother, wife, friend, aunt, daughter, sister, neighbor – I have so much to be grateful for in my life. How lucky am I that just today my 10-year-old drew a portrait of me which he entitled “Mighty Mom”. Somehow through all the craziness of balancing work, family and life Johnny thinks I’ve managed to create stars and rainbows! I’m smart enough to know that’s something worth cherishing. Being grateful has made me a better mother, friend and neighbor. It has made me a better woman. So why is it that in our quest to lead others at work so many of us focus on achievement and forget to help people be grateful for their careers?
Call it maturity, perspective, maybe even call it what it is, getting older, but over the past couple of years I’ve been increasingly discouraged by how few individuals have gratitude for their work. In fact, when I talk with new clients I’m far more likely to learn what’s not working, than what exciting opportunities lie ahead. And yet, time and again the projects that leap forward are those driven by innovation, collaboration and YES a sense of gratitude. People work best together and accomplish great things when they are glad to be a part of their team.
So this Thanksgiving season don’t forget to be grateful for your work.
Share your stories We all have times when it is difficult to be grateful. We’ve missed project deadlines. Our team is not aligned behind a single goal. There is someone on the team who you don’t trust. It’s easy to get lost in what’s not working. But I bet if you look back in time you’ll find lots of instances where work turned around. Where you rallied and succeeded – or at least you had fun trying! There is always something worse out there, so remember to share those stories. You’ll inspire your team mates, and at the same time give yourself a healthy boost of hope.
Create memories “Remember when”…might just be one of the most powerful mantras of all times. Being part of a community means having shared experiences, and the telling of those stories are the legends of corporate culture. It’s what pulls people together in the difficult times, and binds people together in celebration. The location, activities and details for each team are as different and varied as the people who work in your company. But one thing is for sure – creating informal and open forums that enable memory creation is a critical component of gratitude building. So the next time someone wants to expense an afternoon bowling celebration, or asks to host a pumpkin carving contest, or simply wants to host a celebratory lunch — say YES.
Write thank you notes Really! Every year I write thank you notes to clients around the holidays. I often start this process by staring at a piece of paper — for a VERY long period of time. Then I stop thinking about the metrics and start remembering the people. After a few minutes of contemplating what to say I invariably have more people to thank, than I do space to write. The best part – thank you notes don’t have to wait for the holidays!
Model gratitude This may be the most obvious, yet most overlooked way to build gratitude in your organization. Most of us say thank you when our lunch is delivered, or when we receive a compliment. We even go as far as to say thank you to our peers who finish a difficult project on time. But when was the last time you started a planning meeting with a list of what you are grateful for? If you want people to perform their best, help them practice showing gratitude. It’s too easy to forget how great an opportunity lies ahead when we don’t go out of our ways to find what’s working.
Serve together There is nothing that fails faster than “mandatory social service”. However, there is nothing that binds a team together more than helping others. Whether it is mentoring high schools students, sorting items for a clothing drive or serving dinner at a soup kitchen, doing good for others is a bonding experience for volunteers. Be open to these opportunities.
To end I will share some of the many professional things I am grateful for…
- I am grateful for a job that allows me to leverage my passion for writing
- I am grateful for clients who share my sense of humor
- I am grateful to have a job that let’s me eat dinner with my family almost every night
- I am grateful to be a part of new product introductions
- I am grateful to have peers who think differently than I
- I am grateful to work in high-tech – with a penchant for fast growth, pizza lunches and a driving need to try something new
- I am grateful someone other than my mom will read this!